Last week I had the pleasure of join 2000+ at the Brentwood 1/2 marathon in what can only be described as Siberian weather like conditions.
This was my fourth time racing at the event and by far the most coldest conditions I have raced in, it was 0C at a high. I wasn't sure until that morning how I was going to approach the race as to whether that I go for a new PB or a solid pace run, I didn't know what shape I was in. I decided over my black coffee in the morning that I would go for it!!
Despite the "sub-zero" conditions I decided that I would wear a pair of shorts, base layer with long sleeve, skull cap / gloves and compression socks. I don't do tights for short races. I hitched a lift with friends who were also running in the race and we swiftly arrived around 9.30. It was immediately obvious in the car park that conditions were going to make this day some what fun as there was a sprinkling of snow. The thought of sliding around on this made me think twice about attempting a PB but by the time we arrived at the starting line the roads looked clear and there was only a soft breeze of icy cold air to be concerned with.
Unfortunately this year there was no marching band to lead out the runners to the START line but to be honest I didn't care who did as long as we got there as soon as possible because it was freezing! I lined up alongside the 1:30 pacer with my chest puffed out although I knew this would be a a big push based on where my conditioning is and in the challenging conditions.
I met up with a mate who was also attempting to hit around 1:30 pace and no sooner had we spoken for 30 seconds the gun went off exactly on time. During those first couple of miles its usually a case of dodging runners and keeping track of where the pacer was heading. After the first 3 miles I glanced down at my Garmin and we were averaging 6.47 pace. I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep that up all the way to the finish so I eased back a fraction until I felt a little more comfortable. It turned out that pace was around 7 minute miles.
I had warmed up nicely by the 5 mile marker. It was then that the first of many times that we would be hit by wind that made you feel cold to the bone. I took my mind off it by glancing out into the beautiful fields covered in snow. Fortunately the blast of cold air made me want to keep running hard but surprisingly I felt a sudden thirst so I grabbed a cup of water at the next water station and swigged it back. No surprise it was full of ice!!!!
The next couple of miles went by quickly until we reached a deceiving steep incline and I felt my pace suddenly checked back however I pumped my arms and brought my knees up a little higher to maintain the pace I had set. It turned out this last mile (8 miles) would be my slowest at 7.14. I struggle with the uphills generally but I then motored down the downhills to balance this out somewhat despite heading into the wind for much of the middle miles of the race.
There were few spectators out on the course today but every one of them was encouraging the runners and I in turn either said a polite "thanks" or beamed an enormous smile. As miles 9, 10 and 11 came and went I realised that I was passing more runners regularly now. I began playing the game of zoning in on the next runner ahead and try to pull them back with some imaginary tractor beam despite feeling a the leg heaviness develop.
As I passed the 12 mile marker I knew the toughest point of the course was coming up (at least psychologically). There is a lovely "little" climb in the last 1km and again it was a case of beaming a smile and pump those arms and lifting those knees. As I turned into the finishing straight I attempted a full out sprint for the last 150m or so having seen the clock ticking through 1:31.xx. You feel like your head is exploding and heart is thumping so hard it will burst out of your chest. I love that feeling!
I crossed the line completely shattered with an unofficial time of 1:32:05 (Garmin time). I was very pleased with that as it was a good 2 minutes of my PB yet I had not been putting in good mileage or consistent training for the past 6 months. Above my expectations for sure.
Having stretched out the legs and changed into some much more appropriate clothing I realised I hadn't eaten much at all this morning so grabbed a great smelling cheeseburger and washed it down with an ice cold bottle of water.
I later checked on the official website that I finished 140th out of 2079 runners and a new official PB time of 1:32:03. Job done!